David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE BLACK CAULDRON: A Discussion Guide — Chapters 5-6

Chapter 5: The Huntsmen of Annuvin

  • Describe the Huntsmen of Annuvin.

We have learned much about the Huntsmen of Annuvin before, in Chapter 3. To repeat:

The Huntsmen of Annuvin are ruthless warriors who fight for Arawn:

“They are ruthless as the Cauldron-Born, their strength even greater. They go afoot, yet they are swift, with much endurance. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst mean little to them.” — Prince Gwydion (38-39)

“They are mortal,” Gwydion answered, “though I scorn to call them men. They are the basest of warriors who have betrayed their comrades; murderers who have killed for the joy of it.” (39)

The Huntsmen of Annuvin can be killed, but when one of them dies, the other Huntsmen grow stronger. (39) Prince Gwydion says, “Even as their number dwindles, their strength increases.” (39)

What we read now confirms what we read earlier:

  1. They are dangerous. They attack the band of heroes.
  2. They are mortal. One of the Huntsmen dies in battle, and as Prince Gwydion said on p. 39, the death makes the other Huntsmen stronger. We read,

In the grove there was a sudden moment of silence. Then a long sigh rippled among the attackers as though each man had drawn breath. Taran’s heart sank as he remembered Gwydion’s warning. With a roar, the Huntsmen renewed their attack with even greater ferocity, dashing themselves against the struggling companions in a surge of fury. (55)

  1. They do not tire easily. Adaon points out that since one of the Huntsmen has died, the death has increased the endurance of the other Huntsmen.
  • How well does Ellidyr fight in the battle?

Ellidyr is proud, but he has virtues as well as faults. We already know that he is very strong. Here we learn that he can fight well. Indeed, he even saves the life of Taran. A Huntsman knocks Taran to the ground, and the Huntsman places a knee on Taran’s chest to keep him from moving. Then the Huntsman raises a dagger with the intention of killing Taran. We read,

The Huntsman’s voice froze in the midst of a shout of triumph and he suddenly fell backward. Ellidyr, seeing Taran’s plight, had brought down his sword in one powerful blow. Thrusting the lifeless body aside, he heaved Taran to his feet. (55)

Ellidyr saves Taran’s life, but one result of the death of this Huntsman is that the other Huntsmen grow stronger.

  • How well does Gurgi fight in the battle?

Gurgi finds a sword almost as tall as he is and uses it against the Huntsmen:

His eyes shut tightly, he stamped his feet, shouted, and swung his weapon about him like a scythe. Furious as a hornet, he raced back and forth among the Huntsmen, bobbing up and down, his blade never still. (56)

Personally, if I were using a weapon such as a sword, I would keep my eyes open. I would not want to hurt one of my friends.

In real warfare, sometimes soldiers are wounded or killed by soldiers on their own side. In the confusion of a battle, sometimes soldiers make mistakes. When a soldier is wounded or killed by soldiers on their own side, the soldier is said to be a victim of what is known as “friendly fire.”

  • How well does Doli fight in the battle?

Doli fights well.

Doli is very effective in battle because he has the ability to turn himself invisible:

As the warriors sprang aside, Taran saw one of them clutch the air and spin head over heels. Another Huntsman doubled up and fell, pounded by invisible fists. He rolled across the ground in an attempt to escape the buffeting, but no sooner did he climb to his feet than a shouting, thrashing warrior was flung against him. The Huntsmen lashed out with their weapons, only to have them ripped from their hands and tossed into the scrub. Against this charge they fell back in alarm. (56)

  • Describe the relationship of Taran and Ellidyr in Chapter 5.

Although Ellidyr saves Taran’s life and Taran thanks him, Ellidyr is still proud.

Taran thanks Ellidyr:

“You fought well, Son of Pen-Llarcau,” he said quietly. “I think that I owe you my life.” (59)

Unfortunately, Ellidyr’s pride keeps the two boys from becoming friends:

Ellidyr turned to him with the same glance of contempt that Taran had seen in the grove. “It is a small debt,” he replied. “You value it more than I do.” (59-60)

Ellidyr is saying that he little values Taran’s life — a major insult.

  • What is Adaon’s plan after the attack by the Huntsmen?

With Doli invisible and fighting well, Adaon is able to lead the band of heroes to safety. They are able to rest briefly, but Adaon knows that they must continue to move so that the Huntsmen do not catch up to them.

Ellidyr is concerned about the acquisition of honor, and so he advocates fighting the Huntsmen, but Adaon wants to keep everyone safe, and so they move on. They go deeper into the forest.

  • How does Doli know that Fair Folk are present?

As a Fair Folk himself, Doli simply knows when Fair Folk are present.

As Doli explains,

“How do I know? How do I know?” snapped Doli. “How do you know to swallow your dinner?” (60)

  • Who is King Eiddileg?

King Eiddileg is the King of the Fair Folk. We will learn that Doli has found a way post of the Fair Folk. The purpose of the way post is to help people in need of help. People are likely to need help in this area because it is close to Arawn’s evil country.

Way posts such as this are important, and Doli is aware that King Eiddileg would not let the way post get run down — or at least that he would not want the way post to get run down.

A way post is an outpost. Here are some definitions of the word “outpost”:

  • outstation: a station in a remote or sparsely populated location
  • frontier settlement: a settlement on the frontier of civilization
  • a military post stationed at a distance from the main body of troops


Source: wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/web

Date Downloaded: 13 July 2010

  • Which simile does Eilonwy make near the end of Chapter 5?

Eilonwy says about not receiving an answer from whoever lives beneath the enormous hollow oak tree, “They’re impolite, whoever they are. That’s worse than somebody shutting their eyes so you can’t see them!” (61).

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 5? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

The ending of Chapter 5 is likely to keep the reader reading.

Doli has found a way post of the Fair Folk. He and the band are in need of help because the Huntsmen are pursuing them. However, when the band (actually, Eilonwy) finally receives an answer after shouting down the hollow trunk of an oak, the answer is this: “A faint but distinct voice rose the tree. ‘Go away,’ it said” (61).

This is a kind of cliffhanger. The band of heroes needs help, they are near help, but the Fair Folk who is supposed to help them tells them, “Go away” (61). The reader will wonder what will happen next.

By the way, in One Thousand and One Nights, Queen Scheherazade used cliffhangers to stay alive. King Shahryar used to marry a woman each day and then sentence her to be executed in the morning. He planned to do this to Scheherazade, so she told him part of a story — a part that ended in a cliffhanger. She told the King that she could not finish telling the story at that time, but would finish telling the story later.

In order to find what happened next in the story, King Shahryar was forced to delay Scheherazade’s execution. Each night, she would tell King Shahryar the end of the story that she had previously began telling him, and then she would begin telling another story — but she would tell the King only part of the story, ending in a cliffhanger. In this way, she was able to stay alive.

When Scheherazade had told King Shahryar 1,001 stories, she told him that she had no more stories to tell him. By that time, he had fallen in love with her, and he no longer wanted to kill her.

The Thousand and One Nightsillustrates the cleverness of Scheherazade.

 

 

Chapter 6: Gwystyl

  • Write a short character analysis of Gwystyl.

Gwystyl is gloomy. He seems very unhappy that Adaon and the rest of the band of heroes are present. He objects to taking care of the heroes, and he objects to taking care of the horses. Fortunately, Doli makes him take care of both.

Gwystyl is stationed at the way post. This is a position that should be filled by a person who is brave and competent because it is so close to Annuvin. However, Gwystyl does not seem to be either brave or competent.

Still, Gwystyl does have knowledge. He tells Taran that he already knows that the Black Cauldron is missing. One of the jobs of the person at the way post is to gather intelligence (information). Gwystyl seems to be doing that part of his job, even if he seems reluctant to help Adaon and the rest of the band of heroes.

Part of Gwystyl’s job is to help Fair Folk who are in danger. He seems to do this reluctantly. For example, Doli does a lot of shouting into the hollow tree before Gwystyl answers him. Considering that the Huntsmen are pursuing Doli and the other members of the band of heroes, making Doli shout seems very unwise and very dangerous. The shouting could definitely attract the attention of the Huntsmen.

  • Write a short description of Gwystyl.

Gwystyl is described in a couple of paragraphs:

Taran saw a creature that, at first glance, looked like a bundle of sticks with cobwebs floating at the top. […] this individual seemed in a woeful state of disrepair.

Unlike Doli, Gwystyl was not of the dwarf kindred. Though taller, he was extremely thin. His hair was long and stringy; his nose drooped wearily above his upper lip, which in turn drooped toward his chin in a most mournful expression. Wrinkles puckered his forehead; his eyes blinked anxiously; and he seemed on the verge of bursting into tears. Around his bent shoulders was draped a shabby, grimy robe, which he fingered nervously. He sniffed several times, sighed again, and grudgingly beckoned Doli to enter. (63-64)

One thing to note is that Gwystyl is formed in such a way to be a good spy in a wood, which in fact is where his way post is located.

  • What is the purpose of the way posts of the Fair Folk?

The person who is charge of a way post is supposed to help Fair Folk who are in trouble.

In addition, we can guess that the person in charge of the way post also gathers intelligence (information) to pass on to King Eiddileg.

Doli tells Gwystyl, “If you’re in charge of a way post, you’re supposed to be ready for emergencies” (69).

  • Describe Gwystyl’s way post.

The way post is well hidden.

Doli is able to communicate with Gwystyl by shouting into a hollow tree trunk — the way post is underground.

The actual entranceway into the way post is approximately 100 paces away. It is down a bank that is “so steeply inclined and overgrown that the horses could barely keep their footing” (62).

The actual entranceway is well hidden behind “a huge tangle of thorn bushes” (63).

Whoever built the way post knew what he or she was doing. It is well hidden — exactly what is needed.

The entranceway (portal) is not tall. It is “barely high enough for the animals to pass through” (65).

Past the entranceway is “a kind of gallery, long and low-ceilinged. On one side of it was solid earth, the other a dense screen of thorns and branches impossible to see through but with enough cracks and crevices to admit a little air” (66).

Definition: A gallery is a long and narrow room.

Through a passageway Gwystyl and his visitors go to a round chamber (66). On one side of the passageway “an alcove had been hollowed out; it was filled with roots, lichens, and mushrooms — the food stock, [Taran] guessed, of the melancholy inhabitant” (66).

The round chamber has a fire burning, a pallet of straw (apparently to be slept on), a table that is broken, two stools, and herbs hung to dry.

  • What would the followers of Arawn think if they were to find Gwystyl’s way post? What would they think if they were to hear about Gwystyl?

Arawn and his followers are the bad guys in the Prydain Chronicles. If the followers of Arawn were to find Gwystyl’s way post, chances are that they would find nothing to worry about. No weapons are noticeable. The followers of Arawn are likely to think that it is simply the home of a forest dweller, not of someone who is spying on them.

 

If the followers of Arawn were to hear about Gwystyl, chances are that they would find nothing to worry about. The followers of Arawn are likely to think that Gwystyl is an incompetent being who could never be a spy, not a highly competent spy. Certainly Doli would not have good things to say about Gwystyl.

  • Describe the crow.

The crow will be an important character later in the Prydain Chronicles. Here we are introduced to the crow, whose name, Gwystyl says, is Caw, because of the sound it makes.

The crow, which is large, is in the round chamber. We read this:

The crow resembled more a humpy ball with straggling tail-feathers, feathers as wispy and disordered as Gwystyl’s cobwebby hair. But its eyes were sharp and they peered at Taran critically. With a few dry clicks, the bird polished its beak on the perch and cocked its head. (67-68)

  • How does Adaon treat Gwystyl? How does this compare to how Doli treats Gwystyl?

Adaon is a model of courtesy. We read that he “went to Gwystyl and bowed” (67). In addition, we read that Adaon says to Gwystyl, “We thank you for your hospitality [….] We have been hard pressed” (67).

In contrast, Doli is discourteous to Gwystyl:

“Hospitality!” snapped Doli. “We’ve seen precious little of that! Get along, Gwystyl, and fetch something to eat and drink.” (67)

We can say that Adaon treats Gwystyl the right way. If not for the way post, Adaon and his band of heroes would still be outside — pursued by the Huntsmen. Here, they are safer.

On the other hand, Doli knows Gwystyl. In addition, Doli seems to dislike him. However, this may just be an additional example of Doli’s usual grumpy mood.

  • How does Adaon treat Ellidyr?

Adaon has many talents, and one of them is the ability to heal people. Adaon examines Ellidyr’s wound (on p. 55, Taran sees Ellidyr’s face “below a bloodstained mat of tawny hair” during the fight with the Huntsmen), and then Adaon takes some dried herbs and treats the wound.

Ellidyr says that he need not be treated, but Adaon has an interesting response:

“If you do not choose to take it as a kindness,” Adaon answered, “take it as a precaution. There is hard and dangerous travel before us. I would not have you fall ill and delay us.” (69)

Adaon keeps his eyes on the important thing. The important thing is to fulfill his mission, not to be treated with respect by Ellidyr. Adaon will not let pride prevent him from accomplishing his mission, which — at this time — is to guide the band of heroes to Caer Cadarn.

In contrast, Ellidyr and Taran sometimes let their pride interfere with accomplishing the important thing. Both wanted to go before the other while on horseback in Chapter 3, with the result that one of them came close to being injured — and close to having his horse injured or lost.

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 6? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

The ending of Chapter 6 is interesting. Taran says that the Black Cauldron is missing, a fact that Gwystyl says he already knows:

“But you don’t understand,” Taran said. “We aren’t mixed up with the cauldron. It isn’t in Annuvin anymore. Someone has already stolen it.”

“Yes,” said Gwystyl, with a gloomy look at Taran, “yes, I know.” (72)

The reader is likely to keep reading to find out the questions to these questions:

  • How does Gwystyl know that the Black Cauldron is missing? (Perhaps Gwystyl is more competent than he seems.)
  • Does Gwystyl perhaps have something to do with the reason why the Black Cauldron is missing?

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